Berberé, the spice mix used in the Ethiopian national dish, doro wat, has lately become popular in the U.S. thanks to Ethiopian-born superchef Marcus Samuelsson. He uses lots of it at his Harlem restaurant Red Rooster. The fiery powder is an unexpected twist with roasted sweet potatoes, cooked down here with tomato, onion, garlic, and white wine and pureed into a smooth and spicy soup. A crusty piece of toast and a salad makes this a meal.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Cook time: 2 hours

Ingredients:
4 large sweet potatoes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatoes on the vine, chopped
4 cups stock of choice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup tomato juice
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

For the berberé:
1/4 tsp fresh minced ginger root
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
Dash ground cloves
Dash ground cinnamon
Dash ground allspice
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp New Mexican chile powder*
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup paprika

*New Mexican chile powder is purely ground chiles, as opposed to "chili powder" or California chile powder, which are a combination of chiles with other spices and colorings. If you can't find New Mexican chile powder, substitue any pure ground chile powder, such as ancho, árbol, or piquín (listed from least to most heat).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet or jellyroll pan with foil. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place on baking sheet and roast until fork-tender, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the berberé. Combine all spices in a bowl and stir to integrate. Set aside.

Once potatoes have cooled enough to handle, cut in half and scoop flesh into a bowl. Discard skins (it may be easier to peel the skin away than to scoop out flesh; try both and see which works for you).

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and sweet potato, stirring to coat. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes. Pour in stock, wine, and tomato juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in berberé spice mix. Allow soup to simmer 20 minutes, then remove from heat.

Once cooled slightly, transfer soup to a blender and puree in batches. (I find it easiest to pour puree back into the soup pot and use a slotted spoon to make sure I get all the chunks.) You may alternatively use an emulsion blender. Once all soup is pureed, stir in lemon juice.

Serve hot.

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